The influence of stocking rate and male:female ratio on the production of breeding ostriches (Struthio camelus spp.) under comme

Author: H. Lambrechts, D. Swart, S.W.P. Cloete, J.P.C. Greyling and S.J. van Schalkwyk
Year: 2004
Issue: 2
Volume: 34
Page: 87 - 96

The study provides information on the reproductive performance of ostriches maintained at different stocking rates and male:female (M:F) ratios under intensive commercial conditions in the Little Karoo, South Africa. Breeding ostriches are concentrated on relatively small areas and through trampling have a most significant impact on the vegetation in the Little Karoo. Reproductive performance, as influenced by stocking rate and M:F ratio, was investigated. Stocking rates for the large flocks ranged from 114 to 210 birds/ha, and stocking rates for smaller flocks ranged between 9 to 13 birds in 0.13 ha and 0.30 ha camps, respectively. The different M:F ratios investigated, were 1M:1F (pairs), 1M:2F (trios) and 1M:3F (quads), for breeding systems maintained in 0.06 ha camps. In almost all breeding systems total and average egg production, fertility and hatchability were compromised when stocking rate was increased. High stocking rates were detrimental to the reproductive performance and reproductive behaviour of the flocks. Increasing the number of females per male had no negative influence on the reproduction traits, with a significantly higher production observed for breeding quads. Our findings indicated that ostrich breeding flocks can be maintained at stocking rates higher than those presently used on commercial ostrich farms. Breeding pairs, trios and quads can also be maintained on smaller areas, with acceptable production levels. Increasing stocking densities will have a possible inhibitory effect on the establishment of territories and use of space, thereby impacting on the reproductive behaviour of ostrich females and males in large flocks, respectively. This has important implications in terms of the intensification of ostrich farming especially in areas that are characterised by vegetation that is exposed to the trampling effect of ostriches.

Keywords: male:female ratio, ostriches, reproductive performance, stocking density
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